HARTFORD, Conn. -- Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, said last week his office is conducting an investigation of possible anticompetitive real-estate practices by Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass., an Ahold operating company.
Blumenthal told SN, "We're looking at various real-estate practices that Stop & Shop has used related to parcels of land either leased or owned. Our focus is whether these transactions have been used by Stop & Shop in any competitive ways to preclude other supermarkets from offering choices."
Blumenthal added that he hopes to have the preliminary results of his investigation by the end of June.
A Stop & Shop spokeswoman told SN, "We are cooperating fully with the attorney general in this matter."
One retailer, who asked not to be identified, said several supermarket operators in Connecticut and Massachusetts have been negatively impacted by Stop & Shop's tactics, which include buying land that other companies covet, then holding it unused, and buying land adjacent to other supermarkets and "creating havoc" for the other operators.
The AG's office has spent "several hours" interviewing local supermarket operators about their concerns with Stop & Shop, he said.
"It appears the Connecticut attorney general thinks it has gotten to the point where it may be a violation of the state's laws," the retailer said.
Ron Bloch, corporate counsel, National Grocers Association, Arlington, Va., noted that the issue of "anticompetitive landbanking" by Stop & Shop had been raised last year when the company tried unsuccessfully to acquire Big V Supermarkets, Florida, N.Y.
"What is at issue here is the practice of acquiring a location that the buyer has no intention of using for a new store, shielding itself from competition and denying consumers a shopping alternative," he said.